My Knitting Sanctuary

20160519_093721.jpgMy little team of knitters and I have been busily working away behind the scenes on the forest school friends for a local nursery. Unfortunately things have come to a standstill while I have some yarns tested. I won’t lie – the last month has been rather stressful, as I hugely underestimated how complicated safety checks would be when selling toys! Luckily a workshop lady mentioned this to me (thanks Hillary!) and if selling handmade toys is something you’re considering I would recommend this website as a good starting point so that you’re prepared.

Alongside this -my partner is studying an MSC full time whilst working part time. It’s been somewhat difficult to get days off together – but even more difficult to relax and “switch off” at the same time.

I’ve always been a keen gardener, but over the last month it’s really kept me sane! I like having something to do as it takes my mind off things. Gardening (much like knitting) allows my mind to work through things and put things in perspective in the background, whilst focussing on the job at hand.

The back garden is very much work in progress still. I’ve done a lot of digging ready for building the steps which will give us a flat (ish) seating area at the back. It looks a bit like a building site at the moment!

I love my strawberry patch so much that last year I decided to add more berries. So this year I’m hoping to get some raspberries and blueberries as well! They’re flowering so it looks promising.

As well as peas and beans – I’ve decided to try a couple of new veggies this year. I’ve never done very well with squash in my garden – I get loads of fruit, but they rot off before getting big enough. I’ve tried various things but have decided that for the space they take up it’s not worth it. So instead I’m going to try their relation – the courgette. We eat quite a lot of courgette so it will be great if I do better with these! They’re happily growing in my mini-greenhouse at the moment.

I’m also trying carrots! I’ve always thought my soil isn’t fine enough and I worry about carrot fly. But I’ll never know if I don’t try. Not many have come up so I put some more seeds in at the weekend. Fingers crossed!

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I love seeing how resilient the garden is and I’m particularly impressed with how my Acer has bounced back after the trunk was sliced in two by a big ginger cat falling on it! I stuck it back together with electrical tape but really wasn’t expecting it to recover. A couple of branches died but the rest has come back as good as ever.

I became a bit obsessed with ferns after our holiday to Cornwall last summer and we put one under the tree at the front which is thriving (she’s called Fern Cotton). Then Dad gave me a fern that had grown behind his allotment shed – and I put this in a shady patch at the back and called it Fern Britton. I was convinced it had died and put in a new one right next to where it had been – but then it came back like some weird alien creeping out of the ground! So we now have a new Fern Britton and a zombie Fern Britton.

As much as I love the process of gardening, I’ve always got my mind on the results! I love being able to step out into the front garden and pick fresh fruit and veg. And I’m really looking forward to finishing the back garden and having a little peaceful sanctuary to sit and think…and knit!

Crafty Gardening

I’ve been so busy recently working on my new book that I haven’t had much time off! But when I have – I’ve been doing a bit of crafty gardening. The recent sunshine and showers have made everything go a bit wild!

I’m planning some big jobs in the back yard this year and have made a start, but it’s currently quite messy. I will be levelling off the main flower bed (with dad’s help) And turning it into a seating area. Now that I’m working from home a lot I think it’s important to have an outside office area! I will be doing some nineties style crazy paving and will be planting thyme and camomile in the gaps to soften the edges.

My fence desperately needs replacing. There are only so many times I can saw off the rotten fence post ends and put them back in the other way round – they’re getting too short for the fence panels! A new fence will definitely improve the overall look.

I also wanted to have some lovely stepping stones leading from the door to my new seating area, but unfortunately my budget is £0! So I’ve moved some slabs to create a curved path and I’m growing various ground cover which will cover and soften the edges of the slabs (I hope).

My dad has built and installed some beautiful doors for my outhouses! They’re nearly finished and then I will be painting them in farrow &ball dix blue and putting on my lovely garden shed sign. I previously only had one door and it was rotten – so I’m really happy with these! The wood above the doors is not great but dad didnt think we could remove that without the whole structure collapsing, so he has built supporting struts and hopefully it won’t fall down!

Dad is also repairing my rotten bench which will move to the back garden when it’s sorted. Dad’s great!

In veg patch news – I’ve decided to pay attention to my brother telling me to rotate my veg! But because my patch is so small I’m just going to grow a couple of things each year. So this year is potatoes and tomatoes and next year will be beans and peas. After the success of my strawberries I’ve decided to introduce more fruit. I bought a blueberry bush that was already growing and that’s doing well – it has flowers!

I’ve had a few gardening fails as well. I planted some raspberries which are doing nothing and just look like dead twigs! I’ll leave them in just in case and dad is going to get me some from his allotment as well. So hopefully I’ll have raspberries next year.

I have a massive green fly problem with my roses which turns in a catapiller problem later in the summer. Do you know of any natural ways to deal with this? I’ve tried washing up liquid and garlic with no success.

My beautiful acer suffered a major trauma during a cat fight a few weeks ago! I think a huge ginger tom fell off the wall and landed on it. Most of the branches broke straight off and the trunk was split in two. I bandaged it together with electrical tape and it seems to be surviving – fingers crossed!

Crafty Garden- The fruits of my labour

I hate to say it- but with the final bank holiday of the summer coming up, I’m starting to feel a bit autumnal!

After putting quite a lot of work into my veg patch earlier in the year, I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labour over the last few months- and I’m now enjoying my tomatoes, shallots and looking forward to some autumnal butternut squash.

 

The strawberries looked promising early on and didn’t disappoint! They take very little effort and after three years, my plants are producing more fruit every year.

 

I was worried about growing my potatoes in sacks as I normally do them in the ground. But to give the soil a rest from the potato family I thought I’d try the sacks- and they did look blooming cute! They started producing huge leafs early on so I was worried they were putting energy into the plant and not the roots- but it turned out to be the best crop of earlys I’ve had for a few years!

The only problem I had was that some were a bit green- I’m not sure whether that’s because some light was getting through the sacks? Let me know if you know why!

 

Now- I don’t want to speak too soon on the squash, because the last couple of times I’ve grown them they’ve had lots of fruit which have all rotted off before they were ready. That’s why I built a twig sculpture to grow them up- so that they’re not resting on the wet soil. It’s working so far- fingers crossed!

 

Despite being extremely  neglectful of my tomatoes and not watering them much- they’re doing really well. Sometimes lazy gardening works! I didn’t have a huge amount of success with my peas and beans (just a couple of meals)- but the sweet-peas have gone crazy and they smell beautiful.

The plant I’m most proud of is my pepper. Out of six plants- only one grew fruit and they’re still tiny. It’s probably far too late now for them to ripen, but I have never successfully grown peppers from seed so it makes me really happy!

I have a really small veg patch, and after my initial excitement in the spring- I do very little to maintain it. I’m always surprised and pleased with how much grows as a result of my lazy gardening! Do you have a veg patch? If not- have you tried growing your own in pots?

Crafty Garden Update

With all this lovely sunshine, I feel inspired to give you a little veg patch update!

When I wrote my last crafty gardener blog, I had just planted my potatoes in lovely little sacks. They are now trying to take over the world! (along with the weeds). I’m hoping that the potatoes inside are as big and impressive as the plants, but I’m a bit concerned that they’re putting too much energy into the leaves and not into the spuds. I’ve never tried growing them in sacks before so it’s a bit experimental- and I suspect my sacks are a bit too small!

I’ve already started harvesting the fruits of my labour and have eaten a couple of bowls of strawberries (as well as grabbing one or two every-time I walk through the garden). My challenge is getting to them before the slugs! If you have any organic anti-slug tips- please let me know! Eggshells work well. I’ve never tried the drowning in beer thing. It seems a bit mean.

My second lot of squash seedlings are doing better than the first ones but haven’t really got going yet. The main problem I’ve had in the past is the fruit rotting off before they’re big enough so I only end up with one or two per plant. I’ve made a sort of twig sculpture for them to grow up so that the squash won’t be sitting on the ground. It’s a bit wobbly so I’ll let you know how that goes!

And a crafty garden isn’t complete without some pretty flowers!

Crafty Gardener

My dad has always had an allotment- which he used to share with my Grandad. I think my main involvement when I was younger was helping to pick and eat the strawberrys!

One of the best things about my little house, is the fact that it has two gardens! They’re both quite teeny, but it means I can have a nice private flowery garden at the back where I can relax and knit- and a veg patch at the front.

I like the fact that it’s a small space because it’s manageable- and I don’t have to travel far to do the watering. But in an ideal world- you should rotate where you plant your veg- this is difficult in a small space. I didn’t have much success last summer, so I’ve taken advice from my brother, who has a successful allotment, and I’m hoping for more luck this year!

I’ve planted my potatoes in sacks and I’m going to grow my tomatoes in hanging baskets to give the soil a year off from those. I also dug up a few bushes to plant my beans, peas and sweet-peas in a different place (above with cloches made from bottles)- these will be growing up the fence. My strawberries have got lots of flowers on so I’m hoping for a bumper crop, and the shallots are looking good!

In an attempt to improve the soil- I overwintered some green manure and dug that in just before it started flowering. I’ve also made a worm-hole, which I saw on Pinterest! I think that’s working because I saw the biggest worm I’ve ever seen the other day! Almost as long as the garden. Maybe it was a snake?

The peppers on my windowsill are also looking quite happy- so it’s going pretty well, but it’s not all been a success. I’ve managed to kill some basil, coriander, lettuce and squash seedlings- I possibly just put these in too soon so I’ll try again.

Do you have a veg patch or allotment? Or even just a windowsill? I’d love to see pics of how your seedlings are getting on!